Nearly eleven-thousand Latinx students currently attend the University of Texas at Austin (UT). The visibility of Latinx students is present on UT’s campus through over forty Latinx student organizations and a university-sponsored Latinx student agency. Latinx students, however, still lack both authentic influence into university decisions affecting them and the vehicle through which such influence can be achieved. I believe that the creation of a caucus composed of Latinx student organizations is necessary in order to better consolidate and promote the interests of Latinx students on campus. I will refer to the proposed Latinx Student Caucus simply as LSC from hereon.
In proposing the creation of the LSC, I would like to make it clear that I speak only from my own experience as a Latinx student at UT and from general sentiments shared by fellow Latinx students. I am by no means an expert over the hierarchy of student government and its relationship with the UT administration. I do, however, hold experience in serving as the Community Liaison for a Latinx student organization, the Central American Student Association (CASA).
Structure of the LSC
The LSC would best serve Latinx students by bringing together the student organizations that already exist to serve their interests. Choosing representatives for the LSC from the general student population would unnecessarily politicize the organization and discourage widespread initial support due to required extensive planning for such a system. Rather, membership consisting of just student organizations would incentivize greater initial participation and take advantage of existing organizational structure. Member organizations could simply elect a parliamentarian, a position many organizations already have, to advance their interests within the LSC. The LSC member organizations would each hold a singular vote with two-thirds majority required for decision. This format would ensure that significant deliberation took place before decisions that spoke for such a large and diverse Latinx community were reached.
Purpose of the LSC
The LSC would establish a platform for much needed communication between Latinx student organizations. Although I have witnessed greater communication and coordination between Latinx student organizations this semester than in previous semesters, the LSC would serve to accelerate such communication. The LSC would also serve as the primary platform for UT’s Latinx students to discuss and release statements over the issues that disproportionately or specifically target them. Issues or topics such as the handling of Dreamers and undocumented students, first-generation student issues, or underrepresentation of Latinx in certain fields are all capable of being discussed by Latinx student leaders at UT.
Additionally, the LSC would serve as the platform through which smaller Latinx sub-identities are able to amplify issues that often are ignored by the greater Latinx community. For example, an issue affecting Indigenous Latinx students could be voiced to the greater UT student body through the LSC. Currently, it is difficult for small, “niche” student organizations to be heard and acknowledged by the greater UT student body.
Possible concerns over inclusivity
It is important to note that the Latinx identity covers a wide range of sub-identities. Having made that point, it would be easy question the LSC’s capability to equally and fairly represent all those interests. I, myself, admit that the LSC would fail to always act in the preferred interests of both a recently arrived international student from La Paz, Bolivia and a third-generation Mexican-American student from Katy, Texas. The value of the LSC, however, resides in its ability to amplify the voices of minority groups within the greater UT Latinx community. The predominance of Latinxs of Mexican descent in Texas is well understood and accepted by non-Mexican Latinxs. Such predominance, however, has not prevented the creation of student organizations from Latinx minority groups. The Latinx caucus would serve to empower these Latinx minority groups to make greater use of their agency. Empowerment and inclusivity would be the key functions of the LSC.
Although the LSC is simply an idea I chose to explore through this piece, I do believe it merits real discussion. UT’s Latinx students are in need and capable of the solidarity the LSC would show. It is time for Latinxs to be heard, not just seen, on the forty acres.